The Friendship Saver is an evidence based universal intervention and prevention program that is designed to enhance students’ friendships and reduce conflict amongst peers. The program teaches essential social skills and independent conflict resolution skills. Research indicates that improved peer relations promote general wellbeing, school engagement, self-confidence and can improve academic outcomes.
The Friendship Saver is unique – inspired by Creative Arts Education, experiential learning and underlying psychological theory.
The program creatively teaches fundamental social skills through group work activities. These activities are designed to be challenging. Challenge in groups can lead to differences of opinions and potential conflict situations; a perfect time to apply the strategies learnt. These situations create real-life ‘supported’ opportunities for students to try newly learnt skills. This process from learning concepts to test-driving concepts in a ‘supported’ setting provides students with new, effective templates for relating to others, facilitating change.
The Friendship Saver in Your Classroom
The Friendship Saver is most successful when presented to an entire class, and presented by a team. The team should consist of a Primary Facilitator (e.g. class teacher, school counsellor or welfare officer) and Secondary Facilitator (i.e. class teacher or educational support staff).
Place and Time
The program should be presented in a space that is familiar to the cohort; and ideally where friendships and conflicts may actually occur. A classroom or commonly used conference room (with room to move) would be appropriate.
The Primary Facilitator, ideally supported by the Secondary Facilitator/s, would present one session per week. This session should run for approximately 50 minutes. A follow-up session once a week could also be run by the Class Teacher for 15 minutes; reviewing concepts, and consolidating new themes by engaging the class in reflective discussion.
At the completion of the program, the ‘Delivery from the Postman - Extension Program’ (as described on page XXX) can take place once a week, or once a fortnight to encourage ongoing discussions and consolidation of newly learnt skills.
Within the original research design, the Primary Facilitator role was taken on by school counsellors with a background in psychology or social work however, the Primary Facilitator can be the class teacher, or welfare. This program is also useful in a clinical setting, delivered by psychologists, speech pathologists or occupational therapists. Importantly, the role of the Primary Facilitator comes with great power and responsibility and requires vibrancy, thoughtful use of words, tone, body language, facial expressions, enthusiasm, approachability and fun.
Students can come to expect that whenever The Friendship Saver is delivered, the sessions are sure to be engaging and new. This anticipation can prime each student to participate with energy and keen cooperation, fundamental ingredients for success.
The Primary Facilitator is granted the ‘Friendship Saver Creative License’. This is a license to responsibly inject the program with grandiose, mystical, magical language. For example, ‘What I am about to show you today is huge…it can instantly improve your friendships’. Such language primes students to engage with anticipation and tune in carefully in order to learn these ‘powerful friendship saving strategies!’ With such priming students are more likely to approach a new strategy with confidence, increasing their likelihood of success. Of course, be careful not to use definitive language that could discredit you. For example, avoid comments such as ‘If you do this, you will never ever have a fight with your friend again!’ Use your creative license liberally, but wisely.
The Friendship Saver can be used to promote the Primary Facilitator’s welfare role within a school, and this can help to encourage help seeking behaviour from students. At times, the Primary Facilitator might also identify a student who is in need of further individual support, or is at-risk due to other identified issues. Please take the time to observe students within other contexts (outside of this program) when forming opinions of individual students.
Please Note: Please seek additional parental consent prior to offering counselling to individual students.
The Class Teacher has the most important role of all. A class teacher has the unique opportunity to immerse the students in the language and concepts of The Friendship Saver each day in a meaningful way, in real time, particularly when conflicts occur. Soon enough the programs concepts and language can become integrated into the class culture and integrated into an individual’s repertoire of strategies.
The Primary Facilitator and Secondary Facilitators could meet once a week for 15 minutes to discuss progress, changes needed, and plan for the week ahead.
In order to help the Primary Facilitator maintain a vibrant teaching style and pace, the Secondary Facilitators should take charge of behaviour management issues/intervention during the sessions.
As a team, discuss any students who may need to be ‘hovered around’ during group activities. For example, Samantha often leaves group activities in a huff, crying ‘it’s not fair’. Plan to observe Samantha during a group activity, examining the issues as they present for her. Samantha could then be engaged in dialogue (by the Primary or Secondary Facilitators) to explore specific issues further. This discussion could and should incorporate concepts taught in the program, and explored using an enquiry-based facilitator model (this model will be discussed later in this chapter).
Please note: ‘hovering around’ Samantha doesn’t mean that her behaviours are kept in line simply because she is aware that she is being observed, nor does ‘hovering around’ mean that adults should intervene to derail the usual issues that occur for Samantha. Rather ‘hovering around’ provides facilitators an opportunity to carefully observe from an unnoticeable distance, and identify why Samantha isn’t coping. Facilitators can then work together with Samantha, help Samantha to understand why issues arise for her, and together, establish goals and focus on strategies that Samantha can practice during group work sessions. To read more about the way to support students individually, please read the section “How Should I Respond to Friendship Drama and Peer Conflict in my Classroom?” described later in this chapter.
Your team might identify a friendship/peer issue or topic that is not explicitly addressed by The Friendship Saver. In these instances, please contact the program author, Connie Buckingham to discuss the possibility of an extension activity. Your feedback will also help to shape the ongoing research and development of this program.